Articles by Patricia Velkoff, PhD
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Quick Tips for Coping with Anxiety

Beliefs: Remember that although your feelings and symptoms are uncomfortable, they are neither dangerous nor harmful. They stem from a belief that:

1) you are in a difficult situation, and

2) you do not have adequate resources to cope. Challenge these beliefs, particularly the belief that you are not adequate to deal with your situation.

Symptoms: Understand that what you are experiencing is merely an exaggeration of your normal reactions to stress. Physical reactions such as lightheadedness, palpitations, sweaty palms, and the like are the body's normal response to uncertainty. Try to switch your thinking to more realistic thoughts like: "My body is only doing what my body does, but my mind doesn't have to follow. "

Wait: When you feel fear rising, WAIT. Don't act immediately to leave or get help. Wait, and give the anxiety time to become smaller and more manageable. Since anxiety is not harmful or dangerous, you do not need to try to escape from it.

Present tense: Watch your fear rise and fall. Notice that it comes in waves. Stay in the present. Be aware of what is happening to you rather than concern yourself with how much worse it might get. Say to yourself, "If this is the worst it gets, can I stand it? " Identify what you are feeling at the moment; don't add to it by jumping into the future. Deal with it from moment to moment.

Outside yourself: Try to focus on things outside of yourself. An internal focus tends to make things worse; a focus on things outside yourself reduces fear. Find a tool that works for you, such as counting backwards from 100 by 3, listening to music, touching something soft, or recite to yourself the states and their capitals.

Labels: Label your fear level from zero to 10 and watch it go up and down. Notice that it doesn't stay at a very high level for more than a few seconds. It immediately starts to come down. The ups and downs are not dangerous.

Actions: Focus on and perform some simple, manageable task. Find calming actions that are pleasant, focusing on those rather than on your emotions. Using calming multisensory input, find a positive focus for yourself. Turn on music that you enjoy. Draw or sing. Take a walk.

Prevention: When you will be in a situation that has previously provoked anxiety, plan how you will be successful. Rehearse going into the situation with a good attitude and dealing with your anxiety constructively. Imagine the sights, sounds, feel, and smells of the location. Imagine yourself at the end of the situation, having been successful, feeling proud of your success.